The first recorded use of the term aviator (aviateur in French) was in 1887, as a variation of "aviation", from the Latin avis (meaning bird), coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Arienne ("Aviation or Air Navigation"). The term aviatrix (aviatrice in French), now archaic, was formerly used for a female aviator. These terms were used more in the early days of aviation, when airplanes were extremely rare, and connoted bravery and adventure. For example, a 1905 reference work described the Wright brothers' first airplane: "The weight, including the body of the aviator, is a little more than 700 pounds".
To ensure the safety of people in the air and on the ground, early aviation soon required that aircraft be under the operational control of a properly trained, certified pilot at all times, who is responsible for the safe and legal completion of the flight. The Aro-Club de France delivered the first certificate to Louis Blriot in 1908followed by Glenn Curtiss, Lon Delagrange, and Robert Esnault-Pelterie. The absolute authority given to the "pilot in command" derives from that of a ship's captain.
Civilian pilots fly aircraft of all types privately for pleasure, charity, or in pursuance of a business, and/or commercially for non-scheduled (charter) and scheduled passenger and cargo air carriers (airlines), corporate aviation, agriculture (crop dusting, etc.), forest fire control, law enforcement, etc. When flying for an airline, pilots are usually referred to as airline pilots, with the pilot in command often referred to as the captain.
There are 290,000 airline pilots in the world in 2017 and aircraft simulator manufacturer CAE Inc. forecasts a need for 255,000 new ones for a population of 440,000 by 2027, 150,000 for growth and 105,000 to offset retirement and attrition : 90,000 in Asia-Pacific (average pilot age in 2016: 45.8 years), 85,000 in Americas (48 years), 50,000 in Europe (43.7 years) and 30,000 in Middle East & Africa (45.7 years).
As there will be 41,030 new airliners by 2036, aircraft manufacturer Boeing expects 637,000 new airline pilots between 2017 and then: 40% in Asia Pacific (248,000), 18% in North America (112,000) and 17% in Europe (104,000).
Other industry experts predict the number of airline pilots will decrease dramatically over time as automation replaces copilots and eventually pilots as well. In January 2017 Rhett Ross, CEO of Continental Motors said "my concern is that in the next two decadesif not soonerautomated and autonomous flight will have developed sufficiently to put downward pressure on both wages and the number and kind of flying jobs available. So if a kid asks the question now and he or she is 18, 20 years from now will be 2037 and our would-be careerist will be 38not even mid-career. Who among us thinks aviation and especially for-hire flying will look like it does now?" Christian Dries, owner of Diamond Aircraft Austria said "Behind the curtain, aircraft manufacturers are working on a single-pilot cockpit where the airplane can be controlled from the ground and only in case of malfunction does the pilot of the plane interfere. Basically the flight will be autonomous and I expect this to happen in the next five to six years for freighters."
In August 2017 financial company UBS predicted pilotless airliners are technically feasible and could appear around 2025, offering around $35bn of savings, mainly in pilot costs: $26bn for airlines, $3bn for business jets and $2.1bn for civil helicopters; $3bn/year from lower pilot training and aviation insurance costs due to safer flights; $1bn from flight optimisation (1% of global airlines' $133bn jet fuel bill in 2016); not counting revenue opportunity from increased capacity utilization. Regulation have to adapt with air cargo likely at the forefront, but pilotless flights could be limited by consumer behaviour: 54% of 8,000 people surveyed are defiant while 17% are supportive, with acceptation progressively forecast.
AVweb reporter Geoff Rapoport stated, "pilotless aircraft are an appealing prospect for airlines bracing for the need to hire several hundred thousand new pilots in the next decade. Wages and training costs have been rapidly rising at regional U.S. airlines over the last several years as the major airlines have hired pilots from the regionals at unprecedented rates to cover increased air travel demand from economic expansion and a wave of retirements".
Going to pilotless airliners could be done in one bold step or in gradual improvements like by reducing the cockpit crew for long haul missions or allowing single pilot cargo aircraft. The industry has not decided how rt proceed yet. Present automated systems are not autonomous and must be monitored, their replacement could require artificial intelligence with machine learning while present certified software is deterministic.